Trigger Warning


Herb Rotfeld shares the "warning" part of his syllabus


Author: Herb Rotfeld

Marketing is becoming a difficult class subject to teach as students are increasingly likely complain to administrators when they are offended by illustrations, advertising, examples, videos or discussion topics they “dislike” for a myriad of sometimes-inexplicable often-unexpected reasons. Just as Netflix is telling employees to quit if they don’t want to work on content with which they personally disagree, advertising agencies have a long history of the same directive to employees who dislike their clients’ products or target audiences. This, in turn, requires that your marketing syllabus include a warning of potentially offensive topics, maybe warning overly-sensitive students that they might want to take a different course.

Here is my syllabus note.

A Trigger Warning is necessary because marketing practitioners are rarely, if ever, the same types of people as their customers, with decision options that must be evaluated in terms of what interests the market segments, not in terms of what personally appeals to the decision maker. The job often requires that they deal with products or consumer choices with which they personally disagree. Similarly, class will discuss products or services you would never buy, product features you’d never need, and mass media messages which would never consider you as part of the target segment, resulting in classes discussing examples that you might find personally offensive. In a marketing class, the same as in the reality outside campus, it is unavoidable. In addition, many video segments will be shown in class because they explain course content in an entertaining fashion that is beyond the charisma-challenged instructor’s capabilities. Because college juniors and seniors over 18-years-old are legal adults, the video segments are not censored to prevent their exposure to brief scatological references, common expletives that might be heard on broadcast or commercial cable-TV networks, coarse slang that children repeat without understanding, and formerly innocent metaphors or acronyms whose contemporary coital or scatological innuendoes might not be discerned by anyone who hasn’t read the latest updates of Urban Dictionary definitions.